Chapter eleven

"Could I talk to you for a moment alone?" I stand before Miller, feeling my gut clenching slightly.

He stops talking to the pilot of the helicopter to give me a glance over. "Will you excuse me for a minute?"

The pilot nods silently and Miller follows me across to a more private area. I take in a deep breath as I turn to him, nervous suddenly that he may say no.

"I wanted to know if... maybe you'd allow me to stay here, become a part of your team maybe." I say in one rushed breath.

He narrows his eyes – but there's no surprise in his eyes, it's as if he knew I would ask him. "What's in it for me?"

"I'd be valued member of your team. I know I'm not always that great at following orders – but that's only been because I never felt I had to. But if I saw you as my Captain, I'd be more obedient."

"Why do you want to stay with us so badly?" He asks curiously. "What's the urgency?"

I bite my lip slightly, my brow drawing together. "I've lost my entire family because of this war. I don't even know if my mother's still alive – but if she is, she's out there somewhere."

"So you want to tag along until you find her?"

"No!" I bark out. "It's not like that. Ever since I was little, my father taught me how to defend myself. I always wanted to put my knowledge to good use – and now I have the chance, the opportunity I've been waiting for."

He hesitates, rubbing a hand along his chin. "You'd follow orders? Do as you're told?"

I nod, despite the thought of constantly having rules to follow. I blink rapidly.

"I'll have to run it through with the team... but it's a strong maybe." He responds calmly, mouth a straight line.

I don't gush; don't blurt out how grateful I am. I just nod silently, my pulse slightly erratic. I don't see why I was so nervous.

But I know exactly why I was so nervous. What would I do if he'd said no? Would I have gotten on that helicopter? Flown away to England? Of course not. I would have stayed here and searched for god knows how long until I was either dead or I found mama. Simple.

"Are you ready to go yet?" Poppy asks, a relieved smile playing across her face.

I bite my lip but before I can open my mouth, her face drops visibly.

"You're not coming, are you?"

"No, I'm not." I let out a small sigh. "I don't belong back in England – I haven't in a long time. My home is here, I belong with this war. It's where my life is now."

"No you don't! There's still a chance for you to come back and start afresh!" She argues.

I shake my head fiercely. "No, I can't. I have to stay here. What else am I supposed to do? Go to England and leave my mama here? That's if she's even still alive."

She swallows. "Then I'm staying with you."

I roll my eyes. "Don't be stupid. You definitely don't belong here, you don't even know how to hold a gun – let alone use one."

"Then teach me. I have no one left in this world – I'm just like you only... with me, I know that everyone's dead."

"No. Okay? If you stay you'll be my responsibility. I won't have your life in my hands."

"But why!? I won't die!" She cries helplessly.

"I have my reasons." I growl. "So no."

"Well it's not up to you anyway!" She snaps, tears brimming in her eyes. "It's up to Captain Millers."

I shrug. "You're right. Why don't you ask him?"

"I will!" She states.

She turns towards him – but he and his team are having a heated discussion, each interrupting to include their own input.

She pauses, mouth opening and shutting. "Uh, maybe I'll wait."

I give her a small, tight smile and nod. She shrugs and takes a step back, arms crossed over her chest and eyes moving around to focus on the two sleek helicopters sitting a small distance away from the rubble.

Already the injured have boarded – although some have decided they want to go back to the main base to continue to take part in the war.

I turn back to look at the others again – the only one I'm worried about having a problem with me is Reiben. I watch the way he argues with Miller and I know for a fact that he doesn't want me tagging along.

I chew furiously on my lower lip, almost hard enough to make it bleed. Being on this team could finally be my chance – the one I need. I could finally prove myself to Papa.

I find myself standing more upright when I notice Miller walking towards me. I swallow hard.

"Welcome to the team Ash." He nods.

"Thank you Captain." I think about saluting but put down that idea pretty abruptly.

"Uh... excuse me?" Poppy squeaks and I roll my eyes.

"Yes?" He raises an eyebrow.

"I was wondering... perhaps you'd allow me to come along too?"

He lets out a sigh and rubs his fingers roughly against his forehead. "You want to come along too?"

"Yes." She coughs.

"And what value do you have to my team?" He questions firmly.

"I, I uh, I learn real okay? I know I'm not good with weapons right now – but give me a few days and... And I promise I'll pick up on!" She blurts out.

He shakes his head. "No, no, no – I can't have you coming along; you'd be nothing but a liberty."

I raise my eyebrows, giving her my best "See?" expression. However that expression soon melts into one of awkward horror as her eyes begin to tear up.

"Pl – please let me come! I have nothing else in the entire world! Nothing at all! I can't – can't go back to England on my own!"

"Oh God." He groans, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"P – Please!" She begs softly, eyes shutting, waiting for the final no.

I let out a sigh of frustration and ruffle my hair. "Poppy – the captain said no. I'm sorry, I really am... but you can't come along."

"But – but – but..." She stammers, struggling to get the words through her sudden tears.

I place a hand on her, remembering just how fragile this girl is. "Write to me, okay?"

Her eyes meet mine, the lashes spiky with tears. She lets out a small sob and nods her head, jerking my into a bone crushing hug.

I let out a loud 'oof' but hug her back, feeling a sudden sadness that she'll be going – that I may never see her again.

"Goodbye." She whispers and turns to the Captain.

He stands with a slightly raised eyebrow. She hesitates for a second and then sticks her hand out boldly before her. He takes it with a faint smile, an attempt to be warm, and shakes it.

"Thank you for saving me and taking me here." Poppy says quietly, eyes slightly red but tears now faded.

He just nods, hand dropping to his side, no words needed. She pauses before giving us both a nod and turning towards the helicopter. She climbs aboard and vanishes.

I find myself staring at the helicopter as it becomes nothing but at tiny dot in the far distance.

"I hope it was all worth giving up." Captain says quietly.

"Yes, it was." I breathe, suffocating that sadness in my chest, refusing to wallow in it.

I step back and turn around to be faced with the others – Jackson, Wade, Mellish, Caparzo and Upham. Horvath stands near the helicopters with Miller. Reiben is nowhere in sight, probably stalked off in a mood.

Then come the words I want to hear. Maybe they're saying it all at once and in different ways – but I get the message pretty well. "Welcome to the team!"